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NORTH KOREA

North Korea blasts Swiss for blocking ski-resort deal

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 August, 2013, 7:21am

North Korea expressed anger yesterday after Switzerland blocked a deal to supply key equipment for a ski resort that has been under construction as one of leader Kim Jong-Un's pet projects.

The Masik ski resort has been heavily promoted by Pyongyang's propaganda machine since Kim visited it in June.

Kim wanted the facility - with 110 kilometres of multi-level ski runs, a hotel, heliport and cable cars - completed by the end of the year.

North Korea's Skiers Association said yesterday that ski courses had already been built, with a hotel and other facilities nearing completion. But "some countries" are blocking the import of "cableway equipment" for the resort, it said.

"This is a wanton violation of the UN Charter clarifying that sanctions should not impose sufferings and damage on the peaceful existence and activities of mankind and the people in relevant countries," it said.

Swiss company Bartholet Maschinenbau had reportedly all but agreed to sell mechanical chairlifts and cable cars to Pyongyang. But Switzerland's State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said last Monday that it had blocked the deal, reportedly worth 7 million Swiss francs (HK$59 million), after the government expanded its sanctions on North Korea in July.

SECO said selling supplies to the ski project fell under the expanded sanctions on luxury exports to the country.

According to a report in Swiss daily Le Temps on Monday, the world's leading ski-lift provider, Austria's Doppelmayr, had turned down the North Korean order "for political reasons", as had French firm Pomagalski.

The North Korean Skiers Association insisted the resort was aimed at making citizens happy.

"Cableway equipment for the ski resort [does] not produce any rocket or nuclear weapon," it said. "If the governments of some countries consider that ordinary inhabitants of [North Korea] should not be allowed to use the ski resort, it is an unpardonable insult to its social system and people."

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